Ninety percent of professional athletes loathe the limelight that their high-profile jobs thrust upon them.
They hate the cameras, they hate all the interviews, and they don’t understand why fans care so much about their day-to-day activities. These are the guys who consider sports to be a job; any extracurricular activities outside their respected playing fields are like chores to these guys.
About 99.9999 percent of professional athletes learn to accept and understand their role in the sport and entertainment society. They make the right public appearances, they stay after to sign the extra autographs, and they grasp the level of their superstardom among fans in their respective cities.
Then there’s this one guy.
He’s been on the cover of dozens of magazines.
He’s changed his last name à la a rock 'n' roll phenomenon.
He helped make Twitter.com mainstream in the sports world.
He’s starred on a reality show on VH1.
He’s launching his own cereal and video games.
He is recognized by just one name, similar to Tiger, Elvis, Madonna, and Prince.
Three years ago, I couldn’t stand Chad Johnson. He constantly bitched about the Cincinnati Bengals organization, and I thought he was overrated on the field.
His touchdown dances were hilarious, but I thought he was a glorified clown.
Two years ago, when he changed his name to "Ochocinco," I, along with millions of others, thought he was headed down the Ron Artest/Mike Tyson "la-la land" road. Football seemed to be the last thing on his mind.
But Ochocinco knew exactly what he was doing; he was becoming a marketing machine.
The change of the last name spurred sales for his new jersey. He won over the majority of his nay-sayers in his 2009 Hard Knocks performance. HBO did an amazing job of catching the character of Ocho—his monstrous truck, his McDonald's addiction, and his famous phrases like “Child, please!” and “Kiss the baby.”
But what the cameras also caught was Ochocinco’s essence: connecting with all of his fans.
Practically every week, Ochocinco will Tweet out his location. It might be a movie theater, a shopping mall, or a restaurant. He will command on the first 80 people to show up where he is. There he will treat them to entertainment, buy beverages, and kick it with his extreme supporters. He literally has "followers" who will respond to him all around the United States.
He’s taken two fans out in Baltimore on $10,000 shopping sprees. He gives out his Xbox Live username on the Internet to play video games with his fans. He’s even put up his personal phone number to his 1.3 million Twitter followers.
Who else on the planet Earth would do this?
Chad Ochocinco willingly lets his adoring fans enter his life.
He isn’t a partier. He isn’t a big intellect. In fact, every single time he talks, you think he’s pranking you.
He may be a goofball, but Ochocinco is also a businessman. I’d argue he has strong enough support to become one of the most influential sports figures in America.
Ochocinco is willing to let the world enter his life. This is something we need to take advantage of.
So if he follows these two steps below, I think Ochocinco could reach Oprah-esque fame among men in the United States.
1. Launch the OchoCinco News Network (OCNN)
Those who follow Ochocinco closely know that he’s a big proponent of "Ustream," a free live video stream available on the Internet—almost like a live YouTube. But this just isn’t enough of Chad. He needs a real camera crew on him majority of his days.
The OCNN started as an online stream this past Super Bowl with Chris Cooley, Ray Rice, and Ochocinco participating in media day, asking the players numerous hilarious questions.
An exclusively players-run network like this would introduce fans to a whole new side of the modern athlete.
Think about every channel you watch. ESPN, ABC, FOX, etc. are all run by CEOs and executives. Obviously, the OCNN will bring in some television experts, but Ochocinco will have final say on all programming decisions.
This type of control from a non-media head could change the way we watch television.
The OCNN could start with a morning talk show hosted by Nabeel and I (think Mike and Mike or Dan Patrick), with regular appearances from Ochocinco himself. By bandwagon effect alone, several famous players will want to appear on the “Players Network,” which would be one potential slogan for the new channel.
Different NFL players or other influential athletes could partake in a roundtable discussion (think a dude’s version of The View) about the labor dispute, concussions, overrated and underrated athletes—anything!
All of Ochocinco’s games would be broadcast later with a camera on him at all times, even in the locker room. There could be a Twitter-based show where fans all across the world could steer the direction of the program.
This type of access would mesmerize his absurd number of current fans and would bring in millions more. It almost would be like a real life version of Jim Carey’s The Truman Show.
The best part about this network is that it would be 95 percent reality. There would be live mistakes and goof-ups, but that’s why we love Chad. He’s as real as us.
2. The OCNN Could Become a Legitimate Challenger to ESPN
ESPN forces certain views and opinions down the throats of its viewers. We all love ESPN, because we’re compelled to—we have no other options.
There’s ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPNU. Let’s take an idea from the movie Dodgeball and literally create ESPN the Ocho.
Today’s athletes all need to unite together, opposing the unfairness and scrutiny in which ESPN portrays certain competitors. If Ochocinco were able to bring Nabeel and I onto his staff, we could put together a compelling case on why the monopoly of ESPN has become more like TMZ. The OCNN will give the players' perspective, not the media's.
Ochocinco needs to bring together the NFL (just for starters) and tell players and agents to stop breaking news to ESPN.
Imagine if Ray Lewis was retiring and he broke the news on OCNN. This would truly make Ocho’s network an excellent source for news.
ESPN needs a competitor—they have not one character working for their network as charming, as entertaining, as controversial, or as real as Chad Ochocinco.
Once OCNN expanded, we could try and purchase rights to actual games, make a magazine, etc. ESPN paved the way for how to make a sports network, now Ochocinco needs to rally his army to challenge their authority.
Ochocinco realizes the direction mass media is going. With the right staff of people in place, I think he could take over our little sports world.
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